Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California yesterday, delivering a keynote speech that began with a multitude of numbers and figures – many containing enough zeros to make the eyes of both consumers and investors glaze over.
First, Cook celebrated the success of Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail outlets as well as the App Store’s five year anniversary. He noted that the 407 retail shops, spread out across 14 different countries, see more than one million visitors a day. He also said that the online App Store currently boasts 900,000 apps, which have generated $10 billion for independent, third-party developers. Additionally, there are 575 million iTunes accounts globally, up from the 400 million announced at WWDC 2012.
Apple’s chief then switched his focus to Apple’s OS X operating system and the popularity it has achieved in recent years. Cook boasted that the Mac has achieved 100 percent growth in the past five years, with PC growth paling in comparison at just 18 percent. He next introduced Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, who cracked a wry joke about naming the next OS X “Sea Lion” because the company was running out of big cat monikers.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Then came the first big reveal: OS X 10.9 “Mavericks,” which ends the succession of feline names in favor of a Northern California surf break coveted by big wave surfers. Cook said that concurrent OS X iterations would bear the names of “places in California that inspire us.”
It will feature tabs for “Finder,” the operating system’s file navigator, which will cut down on clutter for users who previously had to have several separate windows open. Tagging, the way blogs and photo services let you index information, will also come to Mavericks. This will make finding specific files much quicker and easier, especially for Mac power users. OS X 10.9 will also offer increased support for multiple screens and an updated Notifications interface.
Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing took the stage next, changing gears from software to hardware. He introduced updated 11 and 13-inch MacBook Air laptops, touting the new models’ beefed up battery life. The 11-inch Air will increase from 5 to 9 hours, while the 13-inch Air will get an even more substantial bump from 7 to 12 hours. Both Wi-Fi connections and graphics loads times are said to be faster.
Then Schiller dropped the bomb that everyone is still talking about: After revealing a video introduction of the new Mac Pro desktop powerhouse, Schiller turned to the crowd to proclaim, “Can’t innovate any more, my ass.” The sleek, black, cylinder-shaped Mac Pro will be assembled in the United States (rather than at China-based Foxconn). It will be powered by a 12-core, 256-bit Intel Xeon processor with 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, allowing 60GB/s data transmission speeds. It will utilize flash storage and sport four USB 3.0 and six Lightning 2.0 ports. Dual AMD FirePro GPUs will allow the inclusion of 4K displays. Compared to its massive silver predecessor, the new Mac Pro will be only 9.9 inches tall and 6.6 inches wide.
Cook returned to the stage for the event’s showstopper – iOS 7. He prefaced the announcement by sharing that more than 600 million iOS devices had been sold to date, claiming that these devices were used “substantially more” than competitors’ offerings. He also took a stab at the current mobile operating system leader, Android, saying that only 33 percent of Android users are using the most up-to-date version of Jelly Bean, compared with 93% of iOS users on the current latest iOS 6.
Federighi then came back to give a live demo of iOS 7, “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.” Emphasis was placed on simplifying icons and layout while increasing productivity. Gone were the skeuomorphic designs that were a hallmark of previous iPhone and iPad displays.
Multitasking has changed to show much larger previews of running apps, and an Android-like pull-up bar dubbed Control Center reveals on-the-fly settings management. The typeface and color palette have changed as well, incorporating much more white and pastel.
The stock photo app has also been refreshed, with Instagram-like filters now available. Siri has been updated to incorporate more commands, and the female voice will be joined by a “male” option.
The final feature announced for iOS 7 was a big one: FaceTime Audio, which like Skype and other “voice over IP” (VoIP) services would bring iPhone users closer to never needing a calling plan. This could be a game-changer for the cellular provider industry, as explained by Yahoo News’ Rebecca Greenfield:
“Some wireless companies allow FaceTime over their data networks. But anything users can do over Wi-Fi cuts into the necessity to buy plans with a lot of data or with any standard minutes, especially as Wi-Fi becomes an ever-present option. And, of course, phone companies have already started to respond to these changing user habits, making phone plans more unlimited data-centric as customers have stopped caring about a hard count on talk minutes or text messages.”
Cook wrapped up the keynote with iTunes Radio, Apple’s very own music streaming service. It was all but guaranteed to make an appearance at this year’s WWDC, after Apple signed streaming rights contracts with Universal and Warner’s music divisions. It will be a free service and will surely give the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio a run for their money.
Today’s new Apple hardware and software will be available to consumers this fall.